Aeneas’s defeat of Turnus (Book XII), painting by Luca Giordano
Arms, and the man I sing, who, forc’d by fate,
And haughty Juno’s unrelenting hate,
Expell’d and exil’d, left the Trojan shore.
Long labours, both by sea and land, he bore,
And in the doubtful war, before he won
The Latian realm, and built the destin’d town;
His banish’d gods restor’d to rites divine,
And settled sure succession in his line,
From whence the race of Alban fathers come,
And the long glories of majestic Rome.
O Muse! The causes and the crimes relate;
What goddess was provok’d, and whence her hate;
For what offence the Queen of Heav’n began
To persecute so brave, so just a man;
Involv’d his anxious life in endless cares,
Expos’d to wants, and hurried into wars!
Can heav’nly minds such high resentment show,
Or exercise their spite in human woe?
Against the Tiber’s mouth, but far away,
An ancient town was seated on the sea;
A Tyrian colony; the people made
Stout for the war, and studious of their trade:
Carthage the name; belov’d by Juno more
Than her own Argos, or the Samian shore.
Here stood her chariot; here, if Heav’n were kind,
The seat of awful empire she design’d.
Yet she had heard an ancient rumour fly,
(Long cited by the people of the sky,)
That times to come should see the Trojan race
Her Carthage ruin, and her tow’rs deface;
Nor thus confin’d, the yoke of sov’reign sway
Should on the necks of all the nations lay.
She ponder’d this, and fear’d it was in fate;
Nor could forget the war she wag’d of late
For conqu’ring Greece against the Trojan state.
Besides, long causes working in her mind,
And secret seeds of envy, lay behind;
Deep graven in her heart the doom remain’d
Of partial Paris, and her form disdain’d;
The grace bestow’d on ravish’d Ganymed,
Electra’s glories, and her injur’d bed.
Each was a cause alone; and all combin’d
To kindle vengeance in her haughty mind.
For this, far distant from the Latian coast
She drove the remnants of the Trojan host;
And sev’n long years th’ unhappy wand’ring train
Were toss’d by storms, and scatter’d thro’ the main.
Such time, such toil, requir’d the Roman name,
Such length of labour for so vast a frame.
Now scarce the Trojan fleet, with sails and oars,
Had left behind the fair Sicilian shores,
Ent’ring with cheerful shouts the wat’ry reign,
And plowing frothy furrows in the main;
When, lab’ring still with endless discontent,
The Queen of Heav’n did thus her fury vent:
“Then am I vanquish’d? Must I yield?” said she,
“And must the Trojans reign in Italy?
So Fate will have it, and Jove adds his force;
Nor can my pow’r divert their happy course.
Could angry Pallas, with revengeful spleen,
The Grecian navy burn, and drown the men?
She, for the fault of one offending foe,
The bolts of Jove himself presum’d to throw:
With whirlwinds from beneath she toss’d the ship,
And bare expos’d the bosom of the deep;
Then, as an eagle gripes the trembling game,
The wretch, yet hissing with her father’s flame,
She strongly seiz’d, and with a burning wound
Transfix’d, and naked, on a rock she bound.
But I, who walk in awful state above,
The majesty of heav’n, the sister wife of Jove,
For length of years my fruitless force employ
Against the thin remains of ruin’d Troy!
What nations now to Juno’s pow’r will pray,
Or off’rings on my slighted altars lay?”
Thus rag’d the goddess; and, with fury fraught.
The restless regions of the storms she sought,
Where, in a spacious cave of living stone,
The tyrant Aeolus, from his airy throne,
With pow’r imperial curbs the struggling winds,
And sounding tempests in dark prisons binds.
This way and that th’ impatient captives tend,
And, pressing for release, the mountains rend.
High in his hall th’ undaunted monarch stands,
And shakes his scepter, and their rage commands;
Which did he not, their unresisted sway
Would sweep the world before them in their way;
Earth, air, and seas thro’ empty space would roll,
And heav’n would fly before the driving soul.
In fear of this, the Father of the Gods
Confin’d their fury to those dark abodes,
And lock’d ’em safe within, oppress’d with mountain loads;
Impos’d a king, with arbitrary sway,
To loose their fetters, or their force allay.
To whom the suppliant queen her pray’rs address’d,
And thus the tenor of her suit express’d:
“O Aeolus! For to thee the King of Heav’n
The pow’r of tempests and of winds has giv’n;
Thy force alone their fury can restrain,
And smooth the waves, or swell the troubled main.
A race of wand’ring slaves, abhorr’d by me,
With prosp’rous passage cut the Tuscan sea;
To fruitful Italy their course they steer,
And for their vanquish’d gods design new temples there.
Raise all thy winds; with night involve the skies;
Sink or disperse my fatal enemies.
Twice sev’n, the charming daughters of the main,
Around my person wait, and bear my train:
Succeed my wish, and second my design;
The fairest, Deiopeia, shall be thine,
And make thee father of a happy line.”
To this the god: “’Tis yours, O queen, to will
The work which duty binds me to fulfil.
These airy kingdoms, and this wide command,
Are all the presents of your bounteous hand:
Yours is my sov’reign’s grace; and, as your guest,
I sit with gods at their celestial feast;
Raise tempests at your pleasure, or subdue;
Dispose of empire, which I hold from you.”
He said, and hurl’d against the mountain side
His quiv’ring spear, and all the god applied.
The raging winds rush thro’ the hollow wound,
And dance aloft in air, and skim along the ground;
Then, settling on the sea, the surges sweep,
Raise liquid mountains, and disclose the deep.
South, East, and West with mix’d confusion roar,
And roll the foaming billows to the shore.
The cables crack; the sailors’ fearful cries
Ascend; and sable night involves the skies;
And heav’n itself is ravish’d from their eyes.
Loud peals of thunder from the poles ensue;
Then flashing fires the transient light renew;
The face of things a frightful image bears,
And present death in various forms appears.
Struck with unusual fright, the Trojan chief,
With lifted hands and eyes, invokes relief;
And, “Thrice and four times happy those,” he cried,
“That under Ilian walls before their parents died!
Tydides, bravest of the Grecian train!
Why could not I by that strong arm be slain,
And lie by noble Hector on the plain,
Or great Sarpedon, in those bloody fields
Where Simois rolls the bodies and the shields
Of heroes, whose dismember’d hands yet bear
The dart aloft, and clench the pointed spear!”
Thus while the pious prince his fate bewails,
Fierce Boreas drove against his flying sails,
And rent the sheets; the raging billows rise,
And mount the tossing vessels to the skies:
Nor can the shiv’ring oars sustain the blow;
The galley gives her side, and turns her prow;
While those astern, descending down the steep,
Thro’ gaping waves behold the boiling deep.
Three ships were hurried by the southern blast,
And on the secret shelves with fury cast.
Those hidden rocks th’ Ausonian sailors knew:
They call’d them Altars, when they rose in view,
And show’d their spacious backs above the flood.
Three more fierce Eurus, in his angry mood,
Dash’d on the shallows of the moving sand,
And in mid ocean left them moor’d a-land.
Orontes’ bark, that bore the Lycian crew,
(A horrid sight!) Ev’n in the hero’s view,
From stem to stern by waves was overborne:
The trembling pilot, from his rudder torn,
Was headlong hurl’d; thrice round the ship was toss’d,
Then bulg’d at once, and in the deep was lost;
And here and there above the waves were seen
Arms, pictures, precious goods, and floating men.
The stoutest vessel to the storm gave way,
And suck’d thro’ loosen’d planks the rushing sea.
Ilioneus was her chief: Alethes old,
Achates faithful, Abas young and bold,
Endur’d not less; their ships, with gaping seams,
Admit the deluge of the briny streams.
Meantime imperial Neptune heard the sound
Of raging billows breaking on the ground.
Displeas’d, and fearing for his wat’ry reign,
He rear’d his awful head above the main,
Serene in majesty; then roll’d his eyes
Around the space of earth, and seas, and skies.
He saw the Trojan fleet dispers’d, distress’d,
By stormy winds and wintry heav’n oppress’d.
Full well the god his sister’s envy knew,
And what her aims and what her arts pursue.
He summon’d Eurus and the western blast,
And first an angry glance on both he cast;
Then thus rebuk’d: “Audacious winds! From whence
This bold attempt, this rebel insolence?
Is it for you to ravage seas and land,
Unauthoriz’d by my supreme command?
To raise such mountains on the troubled main?
Whom I — but first ’tis fit the billows to restrain;
And then you shall be taught obedience to my reign.
Hence! To your lord my royal mandate bear,
The realms of ocean and the fields of air
Are mine, not his. By fatal lot to me
The liquid empire fell, and trident of the sea.
His pow’r to hollow caverns is confin’d:
There let him reign, the jailer of the wind,
With hoarse commands his breathing subjects call,
And boast and bluster in his empty hall.”
He spoke; and, while he spoke, he smooth’d the sea,
Dispell’d the darkness, and restor’d the day.
Cymothoe, Triton, and the sea-green train
Of beauteous nymphs, the daughters of the main,
Clear from the rocks the vessels with their hands:
The god himself with ready trident stands,
And opes the deep, and spreads the moving sands;
Then heaves them off the shoals. Where’er he guides
His finny coursers and in triumph rides,
The waves unruffle and the sea subsides.
As, when in tumults rise th’ ignoble crowd,
Mad are their motions, and their tongues are loud;
And stones and brands in rattling volleys fly,
And all the rustic arms that fury can supply:
If then some grave and pious man appear,
They hush their noise, and lend a list’ning ear;
He soothes with sober words their angry mood,
And quenches their innate desire of blood:
So, when the Father of the Flood appears,
And o’er the seas his sov’reign trident rears,
Their fury falls: he skims the liquid plains,
High on his chariot, and, with loosen’d reins,
Majestic moves along, and awful peace maintains.
The weary Trojans ply their shatter’d oars
To nearest land, and make the Libyan shores.
Within a long recess there lies a bay:
An island shades it from the rolling sea,
And forms a port secure for ships to ride;
Broke by the jutting land, on either side,
In double streams the briny waters glide.
Betwixt two rows of rocks a sylvan scene
Appears above, and groves for ever green:
A grot is form’d beneath, with mossy seats,
To rest the Nereids, and exclude the heats.
Down thro’ the crannies of the living walls
The crystal streams descend in murm’ring falls:
No haulsers need to bind the vessels here,
Nor bearded anchors; for no storms they fear.
Sev’n ships within this happy harbour meet,
The thin remainders of the scatter’d fleet.
The Trojans, worn with toils, and spent with woes,
Leap on the welcome land, and seek their wish’d repose.
First, good Achates, with repeated strokes
Of clashing flints, their hidden fire provokes:
Short flame succeeds; a bed of wither’d leaves
The dying sparkles in their fall receives:
Caught into life, in fiery fumes they rise,
And, fed with stronger food, invade the skies.
The Trojans, dropping wet, or stand around
The cheerful blaze, or lie along the ground:
Some dry their corn, infected with the brine,
Then grind with marbles, and prepare to dine.
Aeneas climbs the mountain’s airy brow,
And takes a prospect of the seas below,
If Capys thence, or Antheus he could spy,
Or see the streamers of Caicus fly.
No vessels were in view; but, on the plain,
Three beamy stags command a lordly train
Of branching heads: the more ignoble throng
Attend their stately steps, and slowly graze along.
He stood; and, while secure they fed below,
He took the quiver and the trusty bow
Achates us’d to bear: the leaders first
He laid along, and then the vulgar pierc’d;
Nor ceas’d his arrows, till the shady plain
Sev’n mighty bodies with their blood distain.
For the sev’n ships he made an equal share,
And to the port return’d, triumphant from the war.
The jars of gen’rous wine (Acestes’ gift,
When his Trinacrian shores the navy left)
He set abroach, and for the feast prepar’d,
In equal portions with the ven’son shar’d.
Thus while he dealt it round, the pious chief
With cheerful words allay’d the common grief:
“Endure, and conquer! Jove will soon dispose
To future good our past and present woes.
With me, the rocks of Scylla you have tried;
Th’ inhuman Cyclops and his den defied.
What greater ills hereafter can you bear?
Resume your courage and dismiss your care,
An hour will come, with pleasure to relate
Your sorrows past, as benefits of Fate.
Thro’ various hazards and events, we move
To Latium and the realms foredoom’d by Jove.
Call’d to the seat (the promise of the skies)
Where Trojan kingdoms once again may rise,
Endure the hardships of your present state;
Live, and reserve yourselves for better fate.”
These words he spoke, but spoke not from his heart;
His outward smiles conceal’d his inward smart.
The jolly crew, unmindful of the past,
The quarry share, their plenteous dinner haste.
Some strip the skin; some portion out the spoil;
The limbs, yet trembling, in the caldrons boil;
Some on the fire the reeking entrails broil.
Stretch’d on the grassy turf, at ease they dine,
Restore their strength with meat, and cheer their souls with wine.
Their hunger thus appeas’d, their care attends
The doubtful fortune of their absent friends:
Alternate hopes and fears their minds possess,
Whether to deem ’em dead, or in distress.
Above the rest, Aeneas mourns the fate
Of brave Orontes, and th’ uncertain state
Of Gyas, Lycus, and of Amycus.
The day, but not their sorrows, ended thus.
When, from aloft, almighty Jove surveys
Earth, air, and shores, and navigable seas,
At length on Libyan realms he fix’d his eyes:
Whom, pond’ring thus on human miseries,
When Venus saw, she with a lowly look,
Not free from tears, her heav’nly sire bespoke: